Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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TO ENTERPRISE

          KEEP for the Young the impassioned smile
          Shed from thy countenance, as I see thee stand
          High on that chalky cliff of Britain's Isle,
          A slender volume grasping in thy hand--
          (Perchance the pages that relate
          The various turns of Crusoe's fate)--
          Ah, spare the exulting smile,
          And drop thy pointing finger bright
          As the first flash of beacon light;
          But neither veil thy head in shadows dim,
          Nor turn thy face away
          From One who, in the evening of his day,
          To thee would offer no presumptuous hymn!

                                   I

          Bold Spirit! who art free to rove
          Among the starry courts of Jove,
          And oft in splendour dost appear
          Embodied to poetic eyes,
          While traversing this nether sphere,
          Where Mortals call thee ENTERPRISE.
          Daughter of Hope! her favourite Child,
          Whom she to young Ambition bore,
          When hunter's arrow first defiled
          The grove, and stained the turf with gore;
          Thee winged Fancy took, and nursed
          On broad Euphrates' palmy shore,
          And where the mightier Waters burst
          From caves of Indian mountains hoar!
          She wrapped thee in a panther's skin;
          And Thou, thy favourite food to win,
          The flame-eyed eagle oft wouldst scare
          From her rock-fortress in mid air,
          With infant shout; and often sweep,
          Paired with the ostrich, o'er the plain;
          Or, tired with sport, wouldst sink asleep
          Upon the couchant lion's mane!
          With rolling years thy strength increased
          And, far beyond thy native East,
          To thee, by varying titles known
          As variously thy power was shown,
          Did incense-bearing altars rise,
          Which caught the blaze of sacrifice,
          From suppliants panting for the skies!

                                   II

          What though this ancient Earth be trod
          No more by step of Demi-god
          Mounting from glorious deed to deed
          As thou from clime to clime didst lead;
          Yet still, the bosom beating high,
          And the hushed farewell of an eye
          Where no procrastinating gaze
          A last infirmity betrays,
          Prove that thy heaven-descended sway
          Shall ne'er submit to cold decay.
          By thy divinity impelled,
          The Stripling seeks the tented field;
          The aspiring Virgin kneels; and, pale
          With awe, receives the hallowed veil,
          A soft and tender Heroine
          Vowed to severer discipline;
          Inflamed by thee, the blooming Boy
          Makes of the whistling shrouds a toy,
          And of the ocean's dismal breast
          A play-ground,--or a couch of rest;
          'Mid the blank world of snow and ice,
          Thou to his dangers dost enchain
          The Chamois-chaser awed in vain
          By chasm or dizzy precipice;
          And hast Thou not with triumph seen
          How soaring Mortals glide between
          Or through the clouds, and brave the light
          With bolder than Icarian flight?
          How they, in bells of crystal, dive--
          Where winds and waters cease to strive--
          For no unholy visitings,
          Among the monsters of the Deep;
          And all the sad and precious things
          Which there in ghastly silence sleep?
          Or, adverse tides and currents headed,
          And breathless calms no longer dreaded,
          In never-slackening voyage go
          Straight as an arrow from the bow;
          And, slighting sails and scorning oars,
          Keep faith with Time on distant shores?
          --Within our fearless reach are placed
          The secrets of the burning Waste;
          Egyptian tombs unlock their dead,
          Nile trembles at his fountain head;
          Thou speak'st--and lo! the polar Seas
          Unbosom their last mysteries.
          --But oh! what transports, what sublime reward,
          Won from the world of mind, dost thou prepare
          For philosophic Sage; or high-souled Bard
          Who, for thy service trained in lonely woods,
          Hath fed on pageants floating through the air,
          Or calentured in depth of limpid floods;
          Nor grieves--tho' doomed thro' silent night to bear
          The domination of his glorious themes,
          Or struggle in the net-work of thy dreams!

                                  III

          If there be movements in the Patriot's soul,
          From source still deeper, and of higher worth,
          'Tis thine the quickening impulse to control,
          And in due season send the mandate forth;
          Thy call a prostrate Nation can restore,
          When but a single Mind resolves to crouch no more.

                                   IV

          Dread Minister of wrath!
          Who to their destined punishment dost urge
          The Pharaohs of the earth, the men of hardened heart!
          Not unassisted by the flattering stars,
          Thou strew'st temptation o'er the path
          When they in pomp depart
          With trampling horses and refulgent cars--
          Soon to be swallowed by the briny surge;
          Or cast, for lingering death, on unknown strands;
          Or caught amid a whirl of desert sands--
          An Army now, and now a living hill
          That a brief while heaves with convulsive throes--
          Then all is still;
          Or, to forget their madness and their woes,
          Wrapt in a winding-sheet of spotless snows!

                                   V

          Back flows the willing current of my Song:
          If to provoke such doom the Impious dare,
          Why should it daunt a blameless prayer?
          --Bold Goddess! range our Youth among;
          Nor let thy genuine impulse fail to beat
          In hearts no longer young;
          Still may a veteran Few have pride
          In thoughts whose sternness makes them sweet;
          In fixed resolves by Reason justified;
          That to their object cleave like sleet
          Whitening a pine tree's northern side,
          When fields are naked far and wide,
          And withered leaves, from earth's cold breast
          Up-caught in whirlwinds, nowhere can find rest.

                                   VI

          But, if such homage thou disdain
          As doth with mellowing years agree,
          One rarely absent from thy train
          More humble favours may obtain
          For thy contented Votary.
          She, who incites the frolic lambs
          In presence of their heedless dams,
          And to the solitary fawn
          Vouchsafes her lessons, bounteous Nymph
          That wakes the breeze, the sparkling lymph
          Doth hurry to the lawn;
          She, who inspires that strain of joyance holy
          Which the sweet Bird, misnamed the melancholy,
          Pours forth in shady groves, shall plead for me;
          And vernal mornings opening bright
          With views of undefined delight,
          And cheerful songs, and suns that shine
          On busy days, with thankful nights, be mine.

                                  VII

          But thou, O Goddess! in thy favourite Isle
          (Freedom's impregnable redoubt,
          The wide earth's store-house fenced about
          With breakers roaring to the gales
          That stretch a thousand thousand sails)
          Quicken the slothful, and exalt the vile!--
          Thy impulse is the life of Fame;
          Glad Hope would almost cease to be
          If torn from thy society;
          And Love, when worthiest of his name,
          Is proud to walk the earth with Thee!
                                                              1820.


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